Minister White to open consultation on extending list of sporting events designated for live free-to-air broadcast

March 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Minister for Communications, Alex White TD, today (Tuesday) told his Cabinet colleagues that he is considering making an order to designate three additional sporting events as ‘live, free-to-air’. They are:

· The Six Nations Rugby Football Championship

· The All-Ireland Senior Ladies’ Football Final, and

· The All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final.

Minister White will now initiate a consultation process, as required by the Broadcasting Act 2009 and relevant EU legislation. The legislation requires him to:

· Consult with the relevant sporting bodies and the relevant broadcasters (TV3, RTÉ, TG4 and UTV Ireland).

· Publish a notice of any intended designation and invite comments from members of the public.

· Consult with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

· Engage with the European Commission.

In deciding whether to designate the events, the Broadcasting Act, 2009 requires the Minister to have regard to all the circumstances and, in particular, “the extent to which the event has a special general resonance for the people of Ireland” and “the extent to which the event has a generally recognised distinct cultural importance for the people of Ireland.”

Minister White said: “I think there is a strong case for designating these events, but there is no decision yet. The act requires that I consult with sporting bodies, the broadcasters and the public, and I look forward to doing that. Under the legislation, the primary question I have to ask whether these events have a special resonance and distinct cultural significance or importance for the people of Ireland.”

There are currently no female-only sports included in the list of designated sporting events. The inclusion of the All Ireland Senior Ladies Football and the Senior Camogie Finals was fully supported by the relevant sporting organisations in a 2014 public consultation on the issue. The Ladies Gaelic Football Association said the Ladies Football Final was the largest women’s sporting event in Ireland and that designation would “ring fence the sport as occupying an important position in the sporting calendar and put it on par with its male counterparts.” The Camogie Association said that the designation of the Camogie Final would be a timely opportunity to address the failure to include any uniquely female sporting event “in the context of women’s sporting and social equality.”

Should an event be designated under this process, the Broadcasting Act, 2009 says that the relevant broadcaster is required to pay a ‘reasonable market rate’ to the rights-holder for the right to broadcast the event.

The submissions to the 2014 public consultation on designated sporting events will be published on the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website later today.

 

WHITE WELCOMES EIRGRID REVIEW OF GRID25 PROGRAMME

March 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

As Minister for Energy, I welcomed the publication of EirGrid’s consultation paper on Ireland’s grid development. The paper, which reviews the Grid Link, Grid West, and North-South Interconnecting Line projects, says Ireland’s energy transmission needs can be met with reduced new infrastructure build because of new technological developments and updated projections of future electricity demand.

The document, Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow, confirms the need to reinforce the transmission system in the South East, but suggests an alternative to the original Grid Link proposal, which would involve upgrading existing transmission lines rather than building new lines. It also puts forward a new option for Grid West, which would significantly reduce the amount of new overhead cable required.  It reaffirms the need for the North South project.

Depending on the options implemented following a public consultation launched by EirGrid today, the total cost of Grid 25 projects will be revised down from €4 billion in 2008 to between €2.7 billion and €3.9 billion.

Following public consultation and a review of future energy needs and technological possibilities, the draft strategy presents a fresh approach that will be welcomed by many. It will strengthen the electricity grid while ensuring that new infrastructure will be built when a clear need is identified and when all options have been fully explored. It also places a much stronger focus on engaging and consulting with local communities on future infrastructure development.

The review takes account of lower energy demand than was projected in 2008 when the strategy was first developed, and in 2011 when it was first reviewed. It emphasises the use of new technology that is now sufficiently tried, tested and trusted to meet EirGrid’s anticipated requirements and supports Government plans for balanced regional development.

I wish to acknowledge EirGrid’s efforts to improve community engagement and urged individuals to participate in the consultation launched today.

I encourage everyone to review the proposals put forward by EirGrid and submit their comments on the draft strategy, which is crucial to Ireland’s continuing economic and jobs recovery.

Official Opening of New School in Leopardstown

March 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

holy trinity 2

It was great to open Holy Trinity’s wonderful new facility today

 

I was delighted to today officially open the new Holy Trinity National School building.  This is a great day for the Leopardstown area and I would like to congratulate the Board of Management, staff, pupils and especially the parents, past and present, on all of their hard work in securing the funding and managing the development of the new school building.

Holy Trinity is this year celebrating its tenth anniversary and the growth and development of the school since its foundation are a testament to the commitment of all those involved.

This is one of eight* major educational investments advanced in Dublin South since our Government took office in 2011.

These developments form part of the Government’s €2.2 billion, five-year school building investment programme which aims to create 100,000 permanent school places.

The new building for Holy Trinity is a further sign of the extraordinary progress we have made both locally and nationally through our school building and investment programme. As a Government Minister and a local TD, I am immensely proud of the substantial educational investment we are making.  It is creating real educational opportunities for this generation of children in our community, and the next.

70 schools projects are scheduled for construction this year and this investment will support approximately 3,500 direct jobs and more than 700 indirect jobs in 2015 alone.

Labour is delivering on its key commitment to prioritise new schools and major extensions, so we can meet the accommodation requirements of our growing school-going population.

*Note:

Since the formation of this Government in March 2011, and as part of the school building and investment programme, the following eight developments have been announced in the constituency of Dublin South:

Gaelcholáiste an Phiarsaigh (Irish medium post-primary school), Rathfarnham, was opened in 2014, following the purchase and development of Loreto Abbey by the Department of Education and Skills

  • Holy Trinity National School’s new building, was opened on 26 March 2015 by Minister Alex White
  • Gaelscoil Shliabh Rua’s new 16-classroom facility in Ballyogan has been completed and will open this summer
  • As part of the Prefab Replacement Initiative, development is underway on the building of new classrooms to replace prefab facilities at Divine Word National School.  Work is expected to be completed this summer
  • Ballinteer Educate Together National School will have a new building constructed on the site of St. Tiernan’s Community School, expected to be completed in 2016
  • Stepaside Educate Together National School are due to move to a new permanent school building, expected to be completed by 2016
  • Educate Together has been appointed as the patron of a new Secondary School in Stepaside, expected to open in 2016
  • The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD, recently announced a new primary school for the Goatstown/Stillorgan area to be established by September 2016.

Minister Alex White offers citizens a “genuine stake” in energy policy decision-making

March 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

Energy_showEnergy Minister Alex White today (Wednesday) said citizens must be given a genuine stake in energy policy decision-making if Ireland is to succeed in meeting its renewable energy targets. He said he would address this in a White Paper on energy policy, which is being prepared for publication later this year.

 

Speaking at the annual Energy Show, organised by the Sustainable Energy Association of Ireland, Minister White said his ultimate goal was the decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy production and use.

 

“Most Irish citizens are concerned about global warming, and they welcome the idea of a cleaner energy system. But many also have deep concerns about the impact this could have on their lives. So we must ensure that all our citizens feel they have a genuine stake in the energy decisions that affect them. It is up to us – Government, industry and advocates – to make this happen by maximising the opportunities for citizens to participate in the transition to a carbon-free future. We can help address this, both through energy efficiency and through community involvement in renewable energy initiatives. To this end, the Energy White Paper, which I will publish later this year, will include a policy framework to support communities in these two areas,” he said.

 

Minister White said there had been an impressive grassroots response to schemes like the Better Energy grant support programme, which provides funding for retrofitting to improve energy efficiency, particularly for people experiencing energy poverty. The programme is set to support 2,300 jobs in 2015.

 

Minister White said: “We need to do more to engage householders, so that we can deliver the scale of retrofit needed over the coming years. This challenge informed my recent decision to increase the levels of grant aid available under the Better Energy Homes scheme.  My department is now looking at ways to complement grant aid with affordable financing. The work carried out so far reveals that people have an understandable reluctance to take on additional debt. So the success of this approach will require incentives to attract their interest and drive action. It is likely that this will require a combination of Exchequer-funded grants and consumer financing.”

 

Minister White said Ireland was more than half-way towards meeting its 2020 target of meeting 40% of electricity demand though renewable resources. Between €1.4bn and €1.6bn is being invested in sustainable energy technologies and services in Ireland each year. Over 250,000 homes have undergone energy efficiency upgrades since 2009, and Ireland is fourth in the world for the proportion of wind power on the electricity system.

Major Increase in Energy Efficiency Grants to Householders

March 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

Today, I announced a boost in the level of grants available to householders who want to undertake energy efficiency improvements. The cash value of every grant available to householders under the Better Energy Homes Scheme has been increased by between 25-50%. In addition, a bonus payment has been introduced which will see householders receive bonus payments if they complete three or more energy efficiency improvements.

Last week I met with Helen and Des Fox in Broadford, Ballinteer. Their participation in the Better Energy Homes scheme allowed them to undertake energy efficiency improvements

Last week I met with Helen and Des Fox in Broadford, Ballinteer. Their participation in the scheme allowed them to undertake energy efficiency improvements

The new grant levels are effective immediately and will apply to everyone who has applied for a grant that has not yet been paid. The previous minimum grant threshold of €400 has been abolished and a bonus payment of €300 for householders who undertake three efficiency measures has been introduced, with an additional bonus payment of €100 available to householders who undertake four measures. The bonus payments are available to new applicants and to householders who have already availed of the scheme who wish to undertake further upgrades.

The Better Energy Homes Scheme provides grants to homeowners to undertake energy efficiency measures such as insulating walls or attics and installing new heating systems. Since the scheme was launched in 2009 more than 165,000 homes have undertaken energy efficiency upgrades with a total Government investment of €172m.

Under the revised scheme, a family in a semi-detached house could benefit from a grant payment of up to €4700 for external wall insulation, a boiler and heating control upgrade, and cavity and attic insulation. A couple in an apartment could receive €3400 towards internal wall insulation, a boiler and heating control upgrade and the installation of solar thermal heating.

These efficiency improvements allow people to live in warmer, more comfortable homes while lowering their energy bills. For the country as a whole, they replace our dependence on imported fossil fuels with domestic jobs in the construction sector and help to meet our ambitious climate goals.

By increasing the grant levels, I hope that more householders will be encouraged to undertake efficiency improvements and by introducing bonus payments, I hope that previous grant recipients will be encouraged to come back to the scheme and undertake more works.

The Better Homes Scheme has supported an average of 2,120 jobs (direct and indirect) each year since the scheme was launched in 2009 and has delivered CO2 emissions savings of 214.7kt.

The following table illustrates the changes in grant levels, effective from today:

Cash grant value

From

To

External wall insulation
Apartment/mid Terrace House

€1,800

€2,250

Semi-Detached/end Terrace

€2,700

€3,400

Detached House

€3,600

€4,500

Internal wall insulation
Apartment/mid Terrace House

€900

€1,200

Semi-Detached/end Terrace

€1,350

€1,800

Detached House

€1,800

€2,400

Cavity and attic insulation

€200

€300

Solar Thermal Heating

€800

€1,200

Gas/Oil Boiler installation with heating controls

€560

€700

Heating Controls upgrade

€400

€600

The Better Energy Homes scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on behalf of the Government. Full details on how to apply for the grants is available at:

http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Better_energy_homes/

 

Number of Under-25s Signing Live Register in Dublin South Halved

March 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

BS PG EIRCOM 375 NW JBS MX5 (2)

I warmly welcome the latest CSO figures which show that since the formation of this Government in March 2011, the number of under-25s signing the live register at Nutgrove Social Welfare Office has been reduced by 50%.

Similarly, there has been a decrease of 57% at the Dún Laoghaire Office (serving Stepaside, Stillorgan, Kilmacud, Mount Merrion, Sandyford, Kilternan and Leopardstown) in the same period, while there has been a 40% decrease in unemployment for under-25s nationally from 81,356 to 48,524.

This highlights the growing economic recovery at both a local and national level and shows that Government initiatives are working.

The continuing jobs recovery is further demonstrated by recent announcements that both ESB and Eircom will create opportunities for over 650 apprentices and graduates over the next five years.

As Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources it is heartening to see the creation of good, quality, skilled jobs that will equip many young people with the vital tools and training to contribute to the energy and telecommunications sectors long into the future.

This Government is fully committed to renewing and significantly expanding the apprenticeship system in Ireland and to helping to create the conditions in which our young people can enter the workforce, learn new skills and make a meaningful contribution to our society.

Support for EU Commission Energy Union Package

March 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

As Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, attended the Council of Energy Ministers in Brussels recently (Thursday, 5 March). The agenda included discussions on the recently published EU Commission Energy Union Package.

 

At the Council meeting, I strongly supported the Energy Union Package as a way to strengthen the three pillars of European energy policy – security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability. Five “dimensions” are prioritised: enhancing energy security through solidarity amongst Member States; a fully integrated Internal Energy Market; energy efficiency; decarbonisation; and the contribution of Research and Innovation to the EU’s jobs and growth agenda and competitiveness.

 

As Minister I endorsed plans to enhance Europe’s energy security, which is particularly important for inadequately connected Member States like Ireland and those reliant on only one supply source. Given our high dependency on imported oil and gas, Ireland is particularly vulnerable to price and supply shocks.

 

It is vital that diversity of routes and sources of energy, and the appropriate infrastructure are put in place to address these challenges.  Rollout of Projects of Common Interest, with the support as required from the EU Connecting Europe Facility and the European Fund for Strategic Investments are important elements in overcoming these challenges.

 

I stressed the need to embrace all renewable technologies, including wind, solar and biomass and to continue the focus on Research and Innovation, particularly, for example, in relation to ocean energy and developing wave and tidal technologies.

 

The Energy Union Package accords with the emerging themes in Ireland’s revised Energy Policy Paper to be published in September. There is also a strong underlying element to the EU Package that stresses the need for more empowered and participative energy citizens.

 

I reiterated support for the completion of the Internal Energy Market and the development of regional markets. In my intervention I highlighted the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative, of which Ireland is a founder signatory, which he believes can act as a catalyst for the integrated energy market.

 

On the achievement of a 10% electricity interconnections target, I repeated the position I have put forward several times, i.e. for our energy consumers to reap the benefits of the Internal Energy Market, poorly interconnected countries must have additional interconnection.

 

Ireland has witnessed the benefits of regional cooperation since the establishment of the all-Ireland Single Electricity Market (SEM) in November 2007. The benefits achieved by the SEM include improved security of supply, competitive prices, and increased penetration of renewable energy – the key goals of the Energy Union.

 

Ireland supports the EU’s ambition for climate and energy to 2030 and the Government is fully engaged in determining an ambitious contribution from Ireland that is cost-effective, achievable and fair in terms of the sharing of the burden across all EU Member States.

 

In this regard, I also welcomed the Commission’s Communication on “The Paris Protocol – A blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020”,  which is intended to prepare the EU for the last round of negotiations before the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.

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